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GAME REPORT

Hawks Blow 36ers Away to Open NBL22 in Style

The Illawarra Hawks were tough to beat last season but they might well be a greater threat offensively this #NBL22 season on the back of a convincing first up performance beating the Adelaide 36ers 81-71 on the road on Sunday.

The Hawks were a strong outfit last season under the coaching of Brian Goorjian and they were within one game of reaching the Grand Final, but putting up a lot of points wasn’t necessarily their strength.

In fact, they were putting up almost 10 points fewer across the board then their fellow finals teams despite the danger posed by the likes of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup.

That pair is back for the 2021/22 season, they are joined by more threats in the form of Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Duop Reath and Antonius Cleveland, and they delivered quite the emphatic performance at Adelaide Entertainment Centre to start Sunday's triple-header in style.

Adelaide was up four midway through the second term coming off a loss in Perth on Friday, but from there the Hawks delivered some scintillating basketball to blow the game wide open.

Illawarra would end up going on a 27-5 run either side of half-time including 13 straight points to open the third quarter, and that set up the eventual 10-point win to give them the perfect start after a less than ideal preparation.

There was plenty to like for the Hawks with Duop Reath top-scoring with 18 points and nine rebounds fresh off winning bronze with his coach and for the Boomers in Tokyo.

Justinian Jessup added 17 points and four steals, Tyler Harvey 15 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals, Xavier Rathan-Mayes 15 points and Antonius Cleveland six points, four rebounds and two assists including a spectacular reverse throwdown.

Hawks coach Brian Goorjian was proud that to improve their offence this season, they haven't had to sacrifice much defensively.

"The concerns for us coming in was the fact that we hadn’t played together and we were a little scrappy on the offensive end, but you can see what I thought were some really good patches for the future," Goorjian said.

"There's a growth span there which we didn’t have last year where we were more restricted. There's a lot of excitement there on that end and where we went to win tonight has been the question mark on the group.

"Can we play that defence that we did last year and to hold them to 71 on their home court was a good way to go in that first game."

The 36ers went through the NBL Blitz undefeated winning the Loggins-Bruton Cup, but the coaching career of CJ Bruton has now created a bit of unwanted history with Adelaide losing twice in the opening round of a season for the first ever time.

Cam Bairstow was a bright spot again for Adelaide with 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists with Isaac Humphries adding 13 points and four rebounds with Daniel Johnson contributing 12 points, four boards and two assists.

Captain Mitch McCarron added 12 points, five rebounds and four assists but import Dusty Hannahs again struggled for five points and four turnovers on 2/10 shooting.

Sixers coach CJ Bruton didn’t quite see the same positives as he did in the loss in Perth on Friday, but has no hesitation that things will begin to come together particularly when Sunday Dech, Kai Sotto and Manny Malou are available.

"On Friday night I thought we played with a lot of energy at the start and everyone was excited to play an actual NBL game in front of a big crowd," Bruton said. 

"Perth is a unique place to play as we all know and then to come here, I think the boys were excited but then as the game went on I think we got in our own way.

"We had a few turnovers and our body language shifted, and the wheels started unravelling. "We gave up a lot of points in transition just off our turnovers. If you look at the stat line across the board, that was the only one that really sticks out."

The Hawks sent a glimpse into what would be to come racing to a 9-2 lead in the opening minutes to start their season perfectly topped off with a three ball from Duop Reath.

However, Adelaide steadied nicely including going on their own 12-0 run including triples to Mitch McCarron and Todd Withers to lead 16-13 after one.

Humphries stretched the Sixers' lead to six to start the second term and he put it back out to four when he hit from deep midway through the quarter, but then it was time for the Hawks to put the game to bed.

Starting with a Tyler Harvey three ball and finishing with one from Reath, the Hawks finished the half with a 14-5 run to lead 40-35 at the break.

Illawarra certainly weren’t done there. The Hawks opened up the third quarter with a stunning run of 13 straight points including Reath delivering six of those and another three ball from Jessup.

It took more than four minutes for Adelaide to score courtesy of a Mojave King three-pointer, but the damage was done with that 27-5 run either side of half-time from the Hawks.

Illawarra still led by 16 by three quarter-time thanks to another three-point bomb from Harvey and from there it was all academic throughout the fourth quarter as they opened their #NBL22 account on the road with the 15-point win.

The Hawks now look to keep their momentum going up against the Sydney Kings at Qudos Bank Arena on Saturday, but before that the 36ers head to Hobart to face the Tasmania JackJumpers on Thursday.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 1

ADELAIDE 36ERS 71 (Bairstow 15, Humphries 13, McCarron 12, Johnson 12)

ILLAWARRA HAWKS 81 (Reath 18, Jessup 17, Rathan-Mayes 15, Harvey 15) 

BOX SCORE

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